Whilst being ‘big’ is definitely beautiful for many Black Women as these images reflect, do we really know what the risks are to being overweight?
There are so many liberating and positive words to describe being overweight- the fuller figure, voluptuous, bootylicious, curvaceous! We all come in different shapes and sizes and that is definitely ok, but there is evidence to suggest that being a larger male or female can significantly increase an individuals risk of life-threatening heart disease, diabetes and so much more.
There are many cultures, including my own, where the fuller figure is celebrated and associated paradoxically with health, fortune and is viewed as a very desirable physique. This is common in many African and West Indian cultures, but is also prevalent on the streets of the West such as in the UK and the USA.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a calculation of your weight related to your height. Once your measurements are put into an equation (BMI Calculator) , you get a number which will fall into the following categories:
- Normal weight BMI 18.5-24.9
- Overweight BMI 25-29.9
- Obese I BMI 30-34.9
- Obese II BMI 35-39.9
- Obese III BMI >40
Reasearch puts a great emphasis onto the size of your waist more than the weight anywhere else on your body. The fat around your waist has a higher influence and increased risk of developing chronic medical conditions such as heart disease. Being black as a race alone, is a risk factor for heart disease by itself! When doctors talk about heart disease, this covers things such as High blood pressure, Angina and Heart Attacks.
So many other things are also associated with increased waist fat. This includes increased risk of Diabetes and the problems associated with this (eye problems, kidney disease, circulation problems) and strokes.
Obesity affects your joints and some women will come to the doctor and are diagnosed with arthritis. If you are a smoker, then this can worsen and increase the risk and extent of the above conditions.
Weight can increase your risk of fertility problems Women who are trying to conceive but with difficulty are frequently advised to increase their exercise if they are overweight as high BMI’s can affect this. Certain cancers such as Endometrial (womb) cancer is associated with being overweight. Patient.co.uk is a great website that details some of the conditions and risks of remaining overweight.
And once again, I want to emphasise that I am not ‘anti-large woman’, but I want to let you know the facts so you can make a conscious decision about your weight, and more importantly your life.
As a black doctor, many black patients will say to me that they find changing their to what they have always known and grown up with is a massive obstacle and challenge for them and their families and this, I can fully appreciate. Traditional African and Caribbean cuisines and staple foods are often high in salt and contain large amounts of starchy foods such as rice and potatoes at much higher proportions than is recommended for a more healthier balanced diet. Everybody needs fats, starches, protein, fish etc as part of their balanced diet, but it is the proportion of what you eat is what can be a problem. Try making a list of what you eat and see where you can make changes. It may be good to see a dietician at your doctors’ surgeries who may be able to help you make more realistic and healthier changes too.
Also many of us have many excuses for not being more active. Management of weight is not just about what you eat, but also a balance of what you burn in terms of being active.
You don’t have to join an expensive gym, you can join a local leisure centre or better still jog in the park for free. Don’t worry about what you look like or how you run! Just get out there and do it! If you are going to work- why not get off the bus a few stops and walk briskly to work? Try using the stairs instead of the lift. Take your kids to the park and run after them until you are out of breath! Get a dog or walk your neighbours’ dog! Other options could be getting a fitness video to do at home or play a dance album like Rhianna! Jump up and down in your living room and burn the calories (but please don’t annoy your neighbours!)
Remember, you are never too old or young to start. If you have children, then you are also teaching them and potentially saving their lives! It may seem dramatic, but this is real life. Conditions such as diabetes don’t simply kill you, but they cause many devastating problems such as loss of vision and even amputation of limbs because of circulation problems as I mentioned earlier. If you can avoid this for you and your family, then you have won a massive battle of your own very existence!
It is important to encourage one another including parents, cousins, sisters, brothers, grandmothers and grand-pappies! This can all start here, right now. You’ve heard of the saying, ‘don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.’ Take these words in and use it. Live it.
If you are worried about anything or you have pre-existing medical conditions, make sure you seek medical advice before you start so as to not aggravate or make you more unwell. Your doctor may recommend you swimming more rather than jogging if you have knee or hip problems for example, or may want to check you over.
You don’t have to be stick thin, and I am certainly not an advocate of extreme diets or being unrealistic with your goals. Even if you lose 10% of your body weight, then this can greatly reduce your risk of premature death by 20-25% as certain research has demonstrated.
As a conclusion every woman is beautiful in my eyes no matter what your size, but reducing your waist size can definitely prolong your life.
Make that change.